ESPN this week ran a deep dive article Tuesday about the Los Angeles Lakers’ recent organizational dysfunction, which included the team’s losing season in Lebron James’ first year with the team and the resignation of team executive Magic Johnson.
The piece talks a lot about Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager and top front office decision maker now that Johnson has left the organization. Pelinka, who for many years was the agent for then-Lakers star Kobe Bryant, is known as a “storyteller,” according to the piece, which can cross the line into telling potential whoppers.
One anecdote included in the piece states that Pelinka had once stated at a public event with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that Bryant, after seeing the Batman movie The Dark Knight, had been so taken by Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker that when he was in New York to play the Knicks, he had arranged to have dinner with Ledger in order to pick the actor’s brain about how he got locked into the role.
As has been pointed out throughout the Lakers’ organization, the story cannot possibly be true. Ledger died six months before The Dark Knight was released in 2008, and therefore could not have had dinner with Kobe Bryant to discuss his performance in the movie after Bryant saw it.
The story has been reported before, including in a video show on The Ringer back in the spring of 2018, via a Twitter post. But the ESPN story put it into the context of organizational distrust of Pelinka.
The ESPN piece also goes into how locker room mistrust was sowed while the team was pursuing star center Anthony Davis prior to last year’s trade deadline, with most of the Lakers’ young players mentioned in trade rumors at various times, and some grumbling over James’ management team having more access to the team than usual.
"It's f----ng crazy over there."— Baxter Holmes (@Baxter) May 28, 2019
My story on life inside the Lakers: https://t.co/IxTZ6BpnBO
It says that Pelinka and Johnson, when they were running the team, “made unilateral free-agent acquisitions; triggered a spate of tampering investigations and fines; berated staffers, including [then-coach Luke Walton]; and created an in-house culture that many current and former longtime staffers said marginalized their colleagues, inspired fear and led to feelings of anxiety severe enough that at least two staffers suffered panic attacks.”
Johnson, following his departure, has since ripped Pelinka publicly, claiming that his former colleague had spread stories that disparaged the former Laker legend’s work ethic prior to his surprise resignation on the last day of the season.